Clashes be­fore raids kill 15 in the Philip­pines

Mayor linked to drugs by pres­i­dent is among those slain by po­lice pre­par­ing for searches.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD -

ZAMBOANGA, Philip­pines — Philip­pine po­lice said they fa­tally shot 15 peo­ple Sun­day, in­clud­ing a mayor who was among the politi­cians Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte pub­licly linked to il­le­gal drugs, in the blood­i­est as­sault so far un­der Duterte’s anti-drug crack­down.

Of­fi­cers were to serve war­rants to Mayor Rey­naldo Paro­jinog Sr. of Oza­miz city to search his houses for the sus­pected pres­ence of un­li­censed firearms when gun­men opened fire on the po­lice, spark­ing clashes that killed the mayor, his wife and at least 13 other peo­ple, Oza­miz Po­lice Chief Jovie Espenido said.

“He’s a high-value tar­get on il­le­gal drugs,” Espenido, who over­saw the si­mul­ta­ne­ous, post-mid­night raids on the mayor’s res­i­dence and three other houses, said at a news con­fer­ence.

“We en­force the law to pro­tect the peo­ple who want peace in this coun­try,” he said. “How can we en­force the law if we’re scared of the drug lords? That can­not be, they should be afraid of peo­ple who do good for all.”

At least five peo­ple, in­clud­ing Paro­jinog’s daugh­ter, who serves as vice mayor of Oza­miz, a port city, were ar­rested dur­ing the raids. Po­lice­men were ap­proach­ing the mayor’s house when his body­guards opened fire and hit a po­lice car and wounded a po­lice of­fi­cer, spark­ing a fire­fight amid a power out­age, Espenido said.

A grenade held by one of Paro­jinog’s body­guards ex­ploded dur­ing the clash in­side his house and it re­mains un­clear whether he and his wife were killed by the blast or po­lice gun­fire or both, Espenido said, adding that as­sault ri­fles, grenades, sus­pected metham­phetamine and cash were seized in the raids.

“The ad­min­is­tra­tion vowed to in­ten­sify the drug cam­paign,” pres­i­den­tial spokesman Ernesto Abella said in con­nec­tion with Sun­day’s raids in Oza­miz. “The Paro­jinogs, if you would re­call, are in­cluded in [Duterte’s] list of per­son­al­i­ties in­volved in the il­le­gal drug trade.”

Paro­jinog, who also faced cor­rup­tion charges, had de­nied any links to il­le­gal drugs. He was the third mayor to be killed un­der Duterte’s bloody crack­down on drugs, which has left more than 3,000 dead in re­ported gun­fights with po­lice and thou­sands of other un­ex­plained deaths of sus­pects.

Paro­jinog’s daugh­ter, Vice Mayor Nova Echaves, was ar­rested and was to be flown to Manila for se­cu­rity rea­sons, re­gional po­lice Chief Supt. Ti­mo­teo Pa­cleb said.

The drug killings have been widely crit­i­cized by West­ern gov­ern­ments and hu­man rights groups that have called for an end to what they sus­pect were ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings re­lated to the anti-drug cam­paign.

Last year, po­lice of­fi­cers shot dead Al­buera town Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. in­side a jail cell in the cen­tral prov­ince of Leyte, and a week be­fore that, an­other mayor and his nine body­guards were gunned down, ap­par­ently dur­ing a fire­fight on a road in the south­ern Philip­pines.

Espenido was the Al­buera po­lice chief when the then-de­tained Espinosa was killed dur­ing the po­lice jail raid in a nearby city.

Duterte has vowed to de­fend po­lice­men who would face crim­i­nal and hu­man rights charges while crack­ing down on il­le­gal drugs.

He re­cently or­dered a po­lice of­fi­cer in Espinosa’s death to be re­in­stated af­ter briefly be­ing charged and sus­pended fol­low­ing the jail killing.

All three may­ors were among more than 160 of­fi­cials Duterte named pub­licly as be­ing linked to il­le­gal drugs in Au­gust as part of a shame cam­paign.

Duterte has vowed not to stop un­til the last drug dealer in the coun­try has been elim­i­nated.

‘How can we en­force the law if we’re scared of the drug lords? That can­not be.’ — Jovie Espenido, Oza­miz po­lice chief

Bul­lit Mar­quez As­so­ci­ated Press

PRES­I­DENT Ro­drigo Duterte’s bloody crack­down on drugs has left thou­sands dead in the Philip­pines.

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